[Note: This article was originally prepared quite a while ago. And, as anyone who has read the comics index page will know, there will be a cyberpunk comic posted here in February. It will run from the 5th-14th, if anyone is curious.]
For at least a few days before I wrote this article, I found myself visited by the ghost of a creative project idea that has been haunting me for at least the past few months.
This is something similar to the abandoned project that I mentioned in this article except, this time round, the idea involved making a series of short four-page full-colur cyberpunk comics.
This idea lingered in my mind and refused to budge. It seemed cool, it seemed interesting. In fact, I was even able to come up with basic plot outlines for some of the comics – so, I didn’t think that writer’s block would be an issue. Suddenly, my long-running occasional “Damania” webcomic series seemed dull and boring in comparison to this exciting new project that I was totally going to make….
Then I started to sketch a very rough plan one of the comics. I gave up after just one page of my rough plan. This is that page….
The project fizzed out before I’d even finished the first page of my plan. The dialogue felt like the kind of stodgy over-earnest thing that I would have included in a (thankfully unpublished online) narrative comic series called “Paradox” that I tried to make in 2010 and had blissfully forgotten about until this failed comic plan reminded me of it.
My unfinished project plan even seemed worse than a series of seven or eight very badly-drawn (and slightly badly-written) cyberpunk comics I made in 2012/ 2013. And, yet, this project wanted to be made – even though I couldn’t, in all good conscience, make it.
So, what should you do if you’re troubled by a project idea that keeps appealing to you (and returning to you every now and then), yet stubbornly refuses to be made?
1) Wait: Generally speaking, if a project idea keeps returning to haunt you repeatedly, then there’s a good chance that it’s eventually going to get made. Good project ideas usually tend to keep coming back until the time is right for them to be turned into proper comics, novels, interactive novels etc…
However, the key phrase here is “when the time is right”. When it is, you’ll know. If you aren’t sure, then try planning your project. If it feels like you’re “out of your depth” or if it feels like it isn’t nearly as fun as you imagined it would be, then leave the project now. Only bitterness and disappointment await you if you don’t. So wait until the time is right, even if that time is weeks, months or years away.
When the time is right, the actual projects (like my first finished attempt at writing interactive fiction) will almost appear spontaneously. By the time that you realise that they’re vaguely similar to a “cool” abandoned project idea you had a few weeks/months/years ago, you’ll have probably already made the first few pages….
2) Look under the surface: If a cool project idea stubbornly refuses to be made, then there are probably a lot of hidden reasons why. So, ask yourself three questions:
1) “Why do I want to make this project?”
2) “Is this similar to any of my past failures?”
3) “Do I have any emotional connection to this project?”
If you want to make your cool project idea purely because it will impress other people, or because it will make you look like [insert your favourite author, cartoonist etc.. here] or even because it will make you think of yourself as a “serious writer” or “serious artist”. Then, you’re probably doomed to failure.
Yes, these awesome ideas often do end up impressing other people but that’s only because they impressed the artist/writer first. If you try to be an exact copy of another writer, you’ll just end up being a second-rate imitation (if you have to be a copy, be a copy of several different writers, artists etc.. at the same time). If you want your work to be seen as “serious”, then you’re basing your ideas on what other people think is “serious” rather than on what kinds of things you actually thrive when you are making.
If your project idea is similar to some of your past failures, then this either means that you need to change a lot of things about it (to avoid failing again). Or you’re subconsciously revisiting your past failure, in the hope of not failing again this time. Although this may sound like a good thing, it can often end in disaster.
Going back to my comic planning example at the beginning of the article, another unpublished and unfinished epic fail of a full-colour narrative comic that I tried to make in 2014 (which put me off making comics altogether for at least a year) just happened to also be a “serious” cyberpunk comic….
Finally, when an awesome project idea is ready to be made, you’ll feel a strong emotional connection to it.
For want of a better description, the project idea will seem extremely “relevant” to you. Even if it’s just a “silly” comedy project, it’ll feel like the sort of thing that you are meant to make right now. If this feeling isn’t there, then you should leave the project idea alone until it is.
3) Let it change, or do something similar: In case you haven’t noticed already, whenever these project ideas return to you, they’re usually slightly different from the last time you encountered them. Whilst “perfect” ideas can appear very rarely, a project idea often needs time to grow and to fine-tune itself into something so good that you can’t refuse to make it.
In the meantime, try to make things that are vaguely similar to your project idea, but which don’t fill you with an unexplained feeling of impending failure. For example, the idea of making a cyberpunk comic seems like a total non-starter to me at the moment. But, making dialogue-free cyberpunk art doesn’t.
So, no prizes for guessing which genre of art will appear here quite often late this month/ early next month. In fact, here’s a detail from one of my upcoming cyberpunk paintings.